WE RECENTLY drove Aston Martin’s DB11 AMR, which came with a list of very impressive numbers. 621bhp was one of them, 0-62mph in 3.7sec was definitely another. Its £175,000 price tag is probably worth mentioning too. But there’s another, Italian, number that’s been troubling the people at Aston, and that number is 812. 812 Superfast, to be precise.
Indeed, Ferrari’s flagship 812 Superfast – reviewed here by Jeremy Clarkson – had somewhat stolen Aston Martin’s limelight – and kept engineers at the British sports car maker awake at night. Now comes the British firm’s response; the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, which aims to take on Ferrari’s 753bhp model and become the ultimate Super GT.
At a Pizza Express, ‘leggera’ means less pizza and more salad. This is clearly a bad thing. Sat in an Aston Martin, however, it means less weight, which together with the DBS’s 715bhp is a very good thing indeed. OK, so its full ‘super lightweight’ moniker might be stretching things a little, given the DBS has a kerbweight of around 1800kg. Or more than a Jaguar F-Pace SUV. But it’s a saving of some 70kg over the standard V12 DB11 on which its based, which in turn means better pub ammo: you’ll howl to 62mph in just 3.4 seconds and, with enough of a straight at a race track, carry on to 211mph.
Forget about the modest weight loss, though. The DBS is a very different car from the standard DB11. It has a wider rear track, gets broader, bespoke Pirelli P Zero tyres, sits lower to the road surface, has revised bodywork that generates 180kg of downforce at maximum speed and gets an even more raucous exhaust system. Aston has also fitted an upgraded gearbox to handle the extra torque of the V12 engine, changed the rear differential for keener handling and fine-tuned the ESP stability system to help the driver get the most out of the DBS Superleggera’s performance. Which is why it also costs quite a bit more, at £225,000.
So it’s perhaps a little disappointing that there are areas inside where the DBS feels lacklustre. Sure, space for two is good and its fundamental driving position, seat and wheel adjustment are all commendable, but its cheap-feeling air vents and questionable build quality in places is disappointing at this price. Putting up with Mercedes’ old infotainment system for that money is also jarring, while boot space is average at best.
But that is forgotten when the attention turns to driving. The DBS’s uprated turbocharged V12 is simply staggering in the way it drives the car forward from low revs and on towards its limiter, while the exhaust note that goes with it is nothing short of extraordinary. The lighter, slightly more powerful Ferrari 812 is quicker in a sprint from a standstill, yes, but the Aston’s muscle makes it the quicker car when accelerating on the move.
The DBS’s turbocharged V12 is simply staggering in the way it pulls itself from of low revs and on towards its limiter
And the DBS handles noticeably better than a DB11, too. That weight saving, wider track, and more aggressive diff all help the DBS turn in to bends more willingly and generally feel lighter on its feet, although our largely soaking wet, mountainous test route was no place to be switching off the DBS’s electronic safety nets and go exploring its limits.
Does it handle better than a Ferrari 812 Superfast? Only a back-to-back track drive would shed light on that, but the naturally-aspirated Ferrari’s keener throttle response, lower kerbweight and quicker steering do at least make it feel like it changes direction with slightly more verve.
But these are Super GTs, cars that need to get you to the South of France in comfort before you thrash around the Paul Ricard race track before retiring for the evening to Monaco. Here, the Aston is the better bet; it’s quieter at high speeds, has the more supple suspension in its GT driving mode and the slicker gearbox around town. Its sumptuous leather-clad interior feels the more special place to sit, too
Responsive, monumentally quick and brilliantly raucous, yet comfortable and refined when you want it to be, the DBS Superlegerra is one of the most complete cars Aston Martin has yet produced.
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Aston Martin DBS Superleggera rivals
Ferrari 812 Superfast
Lamborghini Aventador S
Or try…Bentley Continental GT
Price £156,700 (you can read carwow’s review of the Bentley Continental GT here)